Grand Designs of Venice as viewed and recorded by Canalleto, are a fascinating art record with a `photographic’ quality that allow each place to be observed for changes through the years, when compared to now. When we discovered he was, in effect, contributor to a family business it was enough of an inspiration for us to also consider changes to family businesses over time.
Personal experience, as being members of family businesses and working with family businesses, doesn’t go back as far as the 18th Century, however, we recognise throughout our experience a certain attitude correlating with business-in-general, rather than isolated to family business, that we doubt has ever changed: clarity. Clear objectives undertaken through clearly directed decisions.
Business owners that we meet seem to each have their own way of organising and managing their business which is relative to specifics and we wondered if the changes to family life over recent decades have impacted, as it would seem that the business family has changed, but has family business changed? Owner/manager, family members’ commitments and financial input are the areas which remain potential strength-and-weakness to the family business, but also the areas which may have altered the most. However, with current high unemployment figures and shortage of university placements, perhaps changes towards legacy or obligation in family business and refreshed focus, motivation and willingness will occur.
From our experience it would seem that just as some family businesses are committed to the family ‘name’ others are the reverse, not unlike businesses in general. While some are dedicated to making a success, others expect it to just happen and, with a push-me pull-me argument towards family businesses as having a wealth of experience and inbuilt support system versus the conflict of nepotism. Family values such as loyalty and care can be replicated in a family business – but can they be replicated in a non-family business? What does the phrase ‘family business’ conjure up; is this dependent upon type or size of a business? What is a customer’s or employee’s perception?
Whether family business or non-family business, clear objective for business and workplace prevents unnecessary stresses and leads to further uncluttered good planning, including in relation to the `biggie’ that causes problems to all types of relationships; money. Spending money to make money is how the business world works but not necessarily how family works, and in the currently changing financial climate, family businesses need a clear objective to reduce the stresses. Asserting a financial matter in a family business to family members usually requires hard facts and is best achieved through a third-party objective professional. The same applies to financing any growth to the, or any, business. Typically for a family business there is a familiar lender who has managed to support the business, however, when growth goes beyond a certain point that lender is often not able to assist and other types of financing may need considering, with specific expertise, for any plans for the business to move forward – and will likely include areas of the business not previously acknowledged or consulted and lenders not normally accessible.
To return to our original thoughts, is the family business likely to be cherished as society is becoming more globalised and how will it shift shape through the changes? Grand designs with firm structures usually last through changes.
(Image credit: DoubleM2 Article credit: Copyright SUF)